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Faulkner: OEuvres romanesques I. Sartoris, Le Bruit et la fureur, Appendice Compson: 1699-1945, Sanctuaire, Tandis que j'agonise.

Faulkner: CEuvres romanesques I. Sartoris, Le Bruit et la fureur, Appendice Compson: 1699-1945, Sanctuaire, Tandis quej'agonise, translated by M.-E. Coindreau, H. Delgove, R.-N. Raimbault, texts corrected and annotated by Michel Gresset. Paris: Gallimard Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 1977

LONG BEFORE AMERICAN SCHOLARSHIP--publishers, at any rate--began investing significant amounts of time and money into worrying about the texts of William Faulkner, our French brothers (and now sisters) were already eye-ball deep into the reams of manuscripts at the University of Virginia, preparing texts suitable for publication in Gallimard's distinguished Pleiade library, the series which perhaps more than any other served as the model for the Library of America, though to be sure the Pleiade provides texts and contexts far more elaborate than the Library of America does. The Pleiade Faulkner volumes are, simply, magnificent works of editorial scholarship, and American homage is long overdue.

Michel Gresset, Maurice-Edgar Coindreau's heir to the position of France's foremost translator of American literature, began the project, then, seeing the remaining mountains before him, managed to farm out the work to French colleagues in Faulkner studies. Gresset worked for years, alone, on the first volume; the next volume, done in collaboration with the other two members of the galloping troika of French Faulknerians, Andre Bleikasten and Francois Pitavy, took nearly two decades; the most recent volume, edited by an enlarged group of this troika's students and friends, took only five years to accomplish.

The Faulkner volumes in the Pleiade follow the format of other volumes in the series: the texts themselves; a substantial introduction (a "Note sur le texte") that traces each novel's composition from its earliest forms--manuscripts, typescripts, fragments, and short stories; an excellent if necessarily highly selective bibliography of books and articles in a variety of languages; and a section called "Notes et Variants," which annotates terms historical and regional for French readers, but which is useful for anybody anywhere.

The texts themselves correct the errors of previous translators: Coindreau, for example, working from the first edition of If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem (published then as The Wild Palms) had translated the Tall Convict's bowdlerized final words, "Women, --!" as "Ah! Les femmes!," a locution which, re-Englished--Ah, women!--, carries precisely the opposite meaning the Tall Convict intended. Using Faulkner's typescript setting copy and the Library of America texts, which read "Women, shit!," Francois Pitavy retranslates the Tall Convict's final words as "Les femmes! Font chier!" a term as idiomatic, and as vulgar, as Faulkner's original.

The "Notes et Variants" sections for each novel are extraordinary. These pages annotate historical, regional, topical, geographical, etc., allusions that a French reader might find problematical--"Sumter," for example, and "cypress knee"--but which are also very useful for any reader of French. These pages also, incredibly, reproduce textual variants from the typescripts and manuscripts, which allow readers not only to follow Faulkner's revisions as he composed and to reconstruct various ur-texts of any passages whose geneses are of interest. Most astonishingly, in the first volume (1977), Michel Gresset made available a complete version of Sanctuary: The Original Text, simply as part of the textual apparatus of the re-translation of Sanctuary. It is unfortunate for most American readers and scholars that these "Notes and Variants" are in French and therefore difficult to use, but non-French readers may still find them useful, if only by working backwards to the original documents.

Even so, these volumes are magisterial, and are worth more attention and praise than scholars on this side of the Atlantic have given them.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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